Baltic birch plywood is highly prized for its consistent light grain and strength. It is used for cabinets and furniture making. Baltic birch is manufactured using similar processes to most other plywoods. It comes in varying thicknesses and grades for different uses.
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Baltic birch, as the name implies, comes from Russia, the Baltic states in particular. Baltic birch has a grain similar to its North American cousin. It is common in Scandinavian and Danish furniture design, where its light colour has become a symbol of the styles. The two main producing countries are Russia and Finland. Baltic birch's European roots are responsible for its metrically measured thickness, which can be a challenge to overcome, since most North American plywood is measured in inches.
Baltic birch, like all plywood, always has an odd number of plies. The two outside plies, known as the face and back have vertical grain, running lengthwise through the sheets. The even-numbered ply have horizontal grain that runs the short way, to provide increased strength and resistance to shrinkage and swelling. Unlike other plywood, Baltic birch is made from solid birch veneers throughout. This lends to the superior consistency that this plywood is known for.
Plywood is graded primarily for appearance. Instead of the traditional grading system, Baltic birch is graded on a unique scale from "C" at the low end, to "B" on the high end. A C grade sheet may have open splits and some open knots in the face. It will also feature visible oval patches in the surface, where voids have been filled. CP is the next grade and allows only small splits. BB is the next. Some knots are allowed and patches will be colour and grain matched to blend. B grade Baltic birch is nearly free from defects. It is made with single-piece veneer facings, without knots or patches. No visible splits are allowed in this grade.
Baltic birch is used in a variety of projects, from cabinets to outdoor building. It is rated for its appropriateness, based on the glue and binders used to laminate the plies. Each glue has a moisture-resistance rating, with exterior plywood being built with a more rugged glue. Most plywood is painted; however, Baltic birch is ideal for large areas of wood grain, where stain is desired. A B grade sheet of Baltic birch will take stain as readily as any hardwood.
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